There’s no doubt about it … I should definitely be going to bed right now. And if I’m not, I should be writing Communications of Learning. But I’m not doing either. I’m blogging … because I’ve been inspired to blog and I know that I won’t be able to sleep until I do.
The inspiration came from Lisa Noble: an absolutely incredible educator, who often causes me to think and reflect. Tonight she made a few comments on an Instagram post that I shared a little earlier today.
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I think many people just took a Communication of Learning Break because now I’m having less of these moments. Yes, this is me as I wait 5 minutes to save a comment and 3 minutes to switch between students. Lots of deep breathing needed to combat the stress … #iteachk #teachersofinstagram
This is me trying hard to remain calm, as I wait for our Communication of Learning program to save my comments and move onto the next child. We’re working through some growing pains with the program that we’re using, and at the peak of my frustration today, I was waiting 5 minutes to save a comment and 3 minutes to move to the next child. Aargh! Trust me: this was the best picture that I could share.
While I was definitely frustrated with the program this afternoon, and while writing reports can be stressful, I have to say that I’ve actually come to love the Communications of Learning. These are not report cards! And even though “Communication of Learning” is so many more characters than “reports,” you will not once see me interchange the two terms — even on Twitter where characters count. It’s the differences between the two that make Communications of Learning beautiful.
- They’re personalised.
- They focus on a child’s growth.
- They’re asset-based.
They capture each child’s learning journey and make me realize just how far our children have come. Yes, these Communications of Learning take time, and yes, I’ve spent many weekends staring at a computer screen, and I will likely spend many more. But when I can go back and can read a beautiful story of growth, the hours somehow seem worth it.
This Communication of Learning is not full of marks, edujargon, or qualifiers. It’s different. It’s special. And if my comments would just save, I’d be posting a great big smiling selfie instead. How do others feel? Does the difference in the Communication of Learning make you like it more than a report card? I never thought that I’d feel this way about it, but this year I’ve realized how much I do.
seriously, there are no comments on this yet? could it be that people are so busy writing their own reports that they haven’t read this?
I’m mind-boggled. Excited, but mind-boggled. Because really, really, really – communication of learning makes you LIKE report cards? That’s like an equation that just doesn’t equal for me. Like there’s a mistranslation somewhere, you know?
I find that incredibly cool, and incredibly baffling. I really must know more.
I get up on my soapbox (to my wonderful, kind, patient friend who I am sometimes lucky enough to have as my administrator) and I rant about how nothing will change until we get rid of report cards, and if I am communicating ALL YEAR LONG with parents and students and giving meaningful feedback and having conversations and keeping digital portfolios and… and…and…Why should I then have to write a report card that no matter how hard I try basically doesn’t say anything meaningful! And then she says “I know, it sucks” and then I write my report cards that no-one is really going to read except to look at the numbers and …..argh, it’s so frustrating.
So, to have you say that you actually enjoy this process now, with these “communications of learning” – this intrigues me…..and I hope that maybe, just maybe, report cards will shift in the next 5 years, before I’m done writing them…. (and yes, I admit that I will probably have the number 15 on my study wall next year, and I will lower that number by 1 with each set of reports that i write – I dislike them that much!)
Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I know exactly what you mean about report cards. I’ve thought much of what you have before, and maybe even blogged on a similar topic. But Communications of Learning are truly different. I love that they’re personalized learning stories. I love that they each reflect the child. And I love that marks are never a part of the process. I still see so much value in portfolios and ongoing assessment, but if we are going to summarize this learning a few times a year, then a C of L seems like a beautiful way to do this. I hope that other grades don’t just get this experience, but get it as we do: without the grades, without the subjects, and with the personalization. How much would have to change for that to happen past Kindergarten?
That’s the hugest question. I know some teachers and schools are working on a gradeless model. I think that it will require a massive systemic shift to make this happen beyond kindergarten. I’m thinking of a friend of mine, who has been an advocate of play-based, inquiry driven learning in kindergarten forever. She retired last year, having taught Grade 1 for the final chunk of her career, and never getting to experience the joy of knowing that she’d been on the right track all along. The system shifted too late for her.
The biggest block I regularly think about for extending these ideas beyond kindergarten is the existing bias of teachers and parents. This doesn’t look like what we experienced, so there is a huge amount of fear and misunderstanding. How will this affect my child’s future? How can they be assessed for entry into university, for example? How will they (really, I) know how they compare to others…and that’s the real shift, right? From competition to curiosity….
Thanks for this comment, Lisa! I’ve been thinking about what you wrote here all day today. I think that you nailed it in the second paragraph … it may very well be our own fears that are holding us back. I keep thinking about this blog post that Kristi Keery-Bishop wrote over three years ago now: https://kkeerybishop.commons.hwdsb.on.ca/2014/12/11/measuring-shadows/. The question for me becomes, do we let these stumbling blocks bring us to a grinding halt, or do we find a way to work around them? Yes, traditional report cards have different requirements than Communications of Learning, and maybe creating a 1-12 Communication of Learning that doesn’t have marks isn’t a reality. But do we need marks for all grades? When do we really need them? And even if we have to assign marks, could we use the text in the report card to really reflect the child? Is there a way to still tell a learning story with a mark attached? I wonder what would happen if parents in all grades were exposed to these kinds of learning stories throughout the year so when things look different on a report card, they aren’t so different after all.
I’m someone that hasn’t been afraid to push the envelope for many years now. It was when I taught Grades 5 and 6, that I fell in love with the play-based philosophy of FDK. This is why I wanted to go back to Kindergarten. We teach our students to take risks. We may even tell them that the learning is more important than the grade. So do we model this, and if we don’t, is it time to change? Are we all ready for this change? I’d like to think “yes,” but I’m just not sure. This kind of switch in thinking is HUGE for many people, and I’m not sure how we all get past this discomfort. Does anybody have any ideas?
Thanks, Aviva. I do keep circling back more and more to questions of elementary to secondary disconnect on all of this (at least partly because I’m a secondary parent right now), and my old favourite “how do we teach it if we’re not living/doing it?”
I took part i n two OTF webinars this week, and the theme of both was cognitive dissonance, and its importance in our teaching and learning. I’m not sure how to create a culture that embraces cognitive dissonance within our current system , but I’d like to try.
Thanks Lisa! I’d love to have a system that “embraces cognitive dissonance,” and I think that there are pockets in our system that do, but I’m not sure how to extend these pockets. I wonder if there are “prerequisite skills” that lead to embracing this “cognitive dissonance.” What might they be and how do we develop these skills? If we look at where people are at that do embrace it, will we be able to move to more people embracing it? I’m not sure, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s a pattern that needs to be explored here.